Faith & Foreign Policy

  In his inaugural address on Saturday, President-elect Bush will pledge to set a new moral tone for the nation as well as a new vision for foreign policy. People don't usually associate these two things -- morality and foreign policy -- but it's time we did. American foreign policy has lacked a moral compass in recent years. Commercial interests have consistently trumped our commitment to human rights, including religious freedom. And the clearest example is China. For years, the Chinese government has waged a campaign of repression against Christians -- both Protestant and Catholic. Thousands have been arrested, jailed, tortured, and killed. Meetings of house churches have been violently broken up, and worshippers have suffered almost as badly as their clergy. The United States, which has a founding principle of respecting religious freedom, has responded by doing next to nothing -- aside from some diplomatic posturing. Fear of offending Chinese leaders or causing them to buy fewer American goods and services has led this country to turn a blind eye to the most brutal persecution. Then there's the case of Sudan. For more than a decade, the Muslim-dominated government has carried on a genocidal war against its Christian population. More than two million Christians (and other southern Sudanese) have been either killed or sold into slavery. Just last week Sudanese Christian villages were raided. Leaders were killed, and others were enslaved. Yet, the United States has imposed no commercial sanctions on Sudan for what it has done. Few officials even acknowledge that there is a problem. And the sanctions imposed on Sudan for its support of terrorism contain loopholes that exempt their chief export: gum Arabic, used in America for making soft drinks and cosmetics. Our neglect of human rights and religious freedom reached a new low in the strange story of Petro China. This offshoot of China's largest oil company has extensive oil exploration and drilling interests in -- you guessed it -- the Sudan. According to Freedom House, to make room for Petro China's exploration, the Sudanese government bombed Sudanese Christian villages, using runways built by Petro China. So what is the result of this travesty? Petro China is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In other words, Americans (possibly including many Christians) are helping to finance the massacre of Sudanese Christians. This is where the policies of the last eight years have led us. We've gone from upholding religious freedom to selling it out and subsidizing genocide. Reversing this trend will require leadership from the top, and there are some hopeful signs. In his confirmation hearing, Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfield, whom I know to be an honest and dedicated public servant, spoke clearly about the military threat China poses. A little hard-headed bargaining will go a long way. And the new administration's foreign policy team seems to be taking a hard line about America's true interests around the globe. Christians will be looking for signals from a president who seems to understand the need for moral leadership. Dare we hope that this shameful chapter of neglecting human rights and religious freedom will end right where it started: on the steps of the United States Capitol?


Chuck Colson



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